Fall Guy

Summary: The visitor left the briefcase in his hotel room, unaware of what would transpire.

The visitor left the briefcase in his hotel room, unaware of what would transpire. He was unaware of the domestic surveillance on him and his itinerary, although his background in security left unanswered questions. The now-infamous security footage showed him heading into the elevator with his bag, and then him stepping out without it. He walked into the hotel bar, apparently shocked to see the protest in the public square across the street on the television.

The protestors formed a well-ordered line opposite the riot police, who formed up like a Roman legion. A tear gas grenade went into the group making the most bellicose gestures, and all hell broke lose when the smoke cleared. Her colleagues stood around her in a circle, gathering around the protest leader's motionless body as blood oozed out of the hole in her neck. Another protestor fell on the opposite side of the square, and the disciplined protest collapsed into panic.

The patrons at the hotel bar stood paralyzed as a chair smashed through the window from an adjacent café. When the protestors raced through the bar, the patrons joined them. The man vanished in that human stampede, like a drop of water in a deluge. There was a split second where he appeared to resist the oncoming tide, but he turned to join it once he realized resistance was futile. The man vanished, only appearing on official records again to cross the border into a nearby country. However, the sheer number of refugees at that time showed nothing out of the ordinary, as the turmoil spread.

Once new authorities took over, they investigated the hotel room. While some things had been looted from lower floors, the upper levels were less affected. Within the man's briefcase was a slag-heap that initially confounded the police that found it. A similar wreckage was found in another hotel room across the square, and another briefcase with a partially intact example provided deeper insights.

The briefcase contained a dissembled, suppressed sniper rifle, ammunition, and a drone system to assemble, calibrate, aim, fire, and move the weapon. The computerized scope was pre-loaded with software accessing local social media, which enabled them to locate high-priority targets in the crowd. Opposition leaders, protest organizers, riot police commanders, and a few relatives of local power brokers were all identified in the crowd and shot. The autonomous guns communicated via pre-designated bot accounts, hiding messages in the noise. In this way, they prevented the protestors and police from determining where the shots were coming from. Each was also equipped with a thermite self-destruct charge, which partially failed on the last one.

The inhuman, insidious snipers started off a change in government, although the culprit that was never truly identified. Such technologies were originally developed by militaries and intelligence agencies, but they'd spread to the private sector and even black market in the years since. The possibility of an individual to cause such mayhem could not be ruled out, despite conspiracy theories lingering for years without decisive proof. Due to the murky, incomplete information regarding the incident, they were never fully disproven.

The man at the center of the controversy was the most visible of the three hotel rooms around that public square. The other was a scientist visiting a local conference, away on business during the riot. The third was a local builder, staying at the hotel after a domestic dispute. The scientist reported her original briefcase had been stolen earlier that day, and it was found in a dumpster in a nearby alley. Clothes belonging to the builder were pulled from several trashcans across the city. All three vigorously denied any involvement, and the local authorities never found substantial evidence. It was only the first of many such incidents, as robotic assassins left human fall guys.